As we converge in Seoul Korea next week to review progress since Busan, I am left with a bitter sweet taste in my mouth. Bitter because we are yet to firmly locate the structure for domestication of the Busan agenda at the national level, and sweet because some regions, building blocks and task teams have turned out to be true champions in taking the Busan agenda forward more boldly than the national level initiatives.
This year marks the third since the adoption of the Global partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC), and I must say the outcome of this important meeting has continued to mean different things to different stakeholders. It has depended enormously on their level of interest in different aspect of the principles. The voluntary nature of the outcome, allowing countries and stakeholders to get away with just about anything, has not helped in consolidating the role of Busan outcome in the Global Partnership Effective Development Co-operation. But one thing that has remained constant is the Spirit of Busan.
Let us for example take the hosting of global meetings; the 2014 High Level Meeting in Mexico was by most accounts a success. But this was not always going to be the case. It took the true spirit of Busan to pull it all together at the last minute. I remember Mexico exercising total leadership in drafting the outcome while entertaining very little, if any, input from the Joint Support Team, Steering Committee – let alone the GPEDC Co-Chairs. These important structures were reduced to mere spectator status, briefed every now and then but prevented from fully engaging in the process. It took a lot of interventions from other stakeholders who felt left out to convince Mexico that the spirit of Busan demanded a participatory process that required all voices to be heard, not just in hearings and submissions to the Mexican draft team but also in the actual drafting of the final outcome document. Nevertheless, I must congratulate Mexico for eventually working through the Steering Committee and the GPEDC Co-Chairs to produce a truly multi-stakeholder process.
Fast forward to the Busan Monitoring Workshop in Seoul, the first review of progress on the Busan commitments. The Government of Korea volunteered to host these workshops as a sign of its commitment to the success of the GPEDC agenda. This is more than welcome. However, given its importance, the process needs to be properly anchored within the GPEDC process. In the spirit of genuine inclusiveness, all stakeholders – civil society in particular – should be part of driving this agenda. The structures of the GPEDC are there to facilitate this. The GPEDC Co-Chairs are important for the sole purpose of generating and sustaining the political support towards the implementation of the Busan agenda. The Steering Committee should use such meetings to receive feedback and address the structural and implementation challenges that come with the implementation of the Busan commitments. The Joint Support Team, an important fulcrum to this process, are not only key in the preparations of the technical issues but are also key in providing a strong linkage and support between the political, strategic, and technical work.
However my sense is that the organizers of the Seoul workshop have failed to fully engage these parties. The Joint Support Team, for instance, appears to be a spectator in this process, not because they choose to be, but because a clear framework for hosting events by countries or institutions to advance the Busan agenda is lacking. Ideally, they should have been involved in the preparations for the workshop beforehand, in the development of the agenda, the production of concept notes, policy papers, and setting up of clear goals in the context of advancing the Busan partnership principles with the host country in a multi-stakeholder process. Instead, preparations initiated late and there were signs of miscommunication and difficulties in coordination between CPDE and the Seoul organizers in the lead up to the workshop.
What all these portend for the future of inclusive and accountable partnerships that enable the monitoring of progress on Busan commitments is unclear. Concerns have been raised that countries or institutions with resources can carry on with their pet projects independent of the Global Partnership, without a clear framework of engagement with GPEDC, let alone with the broader vision of Busan. Clearly a workshop that claims to monitor progress on development commitments, must itself learn from the successes that CPDE and GPEDC as platforms with a focus on inclusive partnerships have achieved. Initiatives such as IATI, Effective Institution platforms, and the Task Team on CSOs Enabling Environment and Development Effectiveness, have provided ways on how to manage and operationalize an inclusive development agenda going forward. Such processes can provide lessons for future monitoring workshops. Regional initiatives such as the NEPAD/AU action plan for implementation of the Development Effectiveness agenda and Asia’s regional platform on the implementation of the Busan Agenda also provide avenues for generating and sustaining political momentum for the domestication and implementation of Busan at the regional and country level. These certainly offer practical ways to take the Busan agenda forward and offer some of the most effective tools and structures through which global indicators on GPEDC can be monitored and measured.
However, there is an urgent need to discuss the weaknesses in the structural linkages between such important initiatives with the rest of the GPEDC structure, if we are to ensure consistency and effectiveness of development efforts at all levels. As one of the driving forces in instituting inclusive partnership since Accra, civil society must be at the heart of this endeavor – institutionalized in all monitoring bodies that emerge from these processes.
Above all, Seoul must embody the principles of Busan, and make a meaningful contribution toward the implementation of the Busan commitments.
Vitalice Meja is the Coordinator of Reality of Aid Africa Network- A pan African Network working on Poverty Eradication through Effective Development Co-operation. He is also a member of the Civil Society Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE).